Ray Hasbell was driving home to Boardman Saturday evening when he saw a crashed car in the westbound lane of Interstate 84 just outside Pendleton. The lights were off in the 2002 Mitsubishi Montero, he said, and smoke was pouring out. He pulled over behind the wreck, turned on the emergency flashers of his Ford F350 pickup and called 9-1-1.
Two women were removing items from the vehicle when flames erupted. As he got off the phone with an emergency dispatcher, one woman collapsed.
Two men dashed to her and carried her to the side of the road, Hasbell said, then hustled to him and asked if he knew CPR.
Hasbell, 38, married and a father of four, said he is certified in the lifesaving technique.
“I jumped out and started doing CPR on her,” he said. “She was not breathing at all. I started doing chest compressions ... rolled her over and hit her on the back and pumped on her chest.”
Hasbell said his adrenaline was going, his CPR training kicked in and he was not doing a lot of thinking. But he said the woman, Shelley Whittaker, 29, a former Pilot Rock resident now living in Portland, began to breathe again.
“I was excited about that,” he said.
Oregon State Police and Pendleton paramedics arrived and an ambulance crew took Whittaker to St. Anthony Hospital, Pendleton, where doctors treated and released her. Lt. Mike Turner, commander of state police in Pendleton, said he heard from staff at the hospital’s emergency department that Hasbell’s CPR saved Whittaker’s life. Turner also said he would nominate Hasbell for an annual award state police give to honor citizens for their actions in an emergency.
The East Oregonian tried to reach Whittaker and her passenger, Tuesday Hailey, 35, of Hillsboro. This is the unedited comment Whittaker posted Tuesday on her Facebook page: “Yeah I had to have someone save my life by giving me mouth to mouth after the car accident I was in where I should of died but god has other plans I guess.”
Hasbell was born in Walla Walla and grew up in Eastern Oregon. For the past several years he has worked as an equipment operator at J.R. Simplot Company, Umatilla, and before that with Wilbur-Ellis, Hermiston. Both employers required him to take a CPR class and he said he has done that every other year for the last decade. He said he used CPR for the first time this past summer at a convenience store in Irrigon to help a man who was having a heart attack. Hasbell said it was tough to hear the man died three days later.
“You can only do what you can do,” he said.
Hasbell’s two youngest girls, ages 5 and 6, were traveling with their father that night to Pendleton. Going up Rieth Ridge, Hasbell said he saw people who needed help and his girls also saw the whole scene play out.
“I keep telling them it was a dream,” he said. “It kind of felt like a dream, you know? Like something you would see in the movies.”
Hasbell said his mother was proud of him, but like Whittaker he attributed the lifesaving to God. He also said everyone should feel confident enough with CPR training to be able to do it an emergency.
“You never think you’ll use it,” he said. “But in the heat of the moment it comes in handy.”